1955 Paul Robeson Performs
Paul Robeson sang 16 songs in seven languages, read from Othello, and discussed world events and issues with a near-capacity crowd in Clothier Memorial Hall. The event, held under the auspices of the Forum of Free Speech, then moved to Somerville, where he fielded questions on a range of topics from more than 50 students. As The Phoenix noted, from his arrival on campus to the last question, he had been "continually involved in singing, reading, and discussing with Swarthmore students for six hours."
Due to his unprecedented success on the field, stage, and around the world, Robeson was arguably at one time the most famous and respected African American in the U.S. However, by the time of his campus visit, he had been vilified, blacklisted, spied on, threatened by racist vigilante terror, and prevented from traveling outside the U.S. because of his political beliefs. Invitations to speak on campuses were among the few he could accept.